The top GOP member of the House Armed Services Committee warned that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death “does not mean ISIS is defeated.”
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) applauded the president and the special operations forces who took out al-Baghdadi, saying it was a “big deal” and Trump “deserves a lot of credit for authorizing the raid” on CNN’s “State of the Union.” But he said his death does not eliminate all cause for concern about terrorist attacks.
“That does not mean ISIS is defeated anymore than getting bin Laden that al Qaeda was defeated,” he said. “We’ve taken something valuable away, but you still have these networks. You still have people who will take the place of anybody we remove, and they continue to work to attack America.”
The Texas Republican told Jake Tapper that it was “important” not to remove all troops from Syria to ensure the U.S. can still monitor ISIS.
“Having some presence there gives us a greater ability through intelligence gathering to keep track of these individuals and other ISIS authorizes,” he said.
Thornberry commended the decision to keep troops around the oil fields in northeastern Syria to prevent ISIS or other countries from taking control.
“It also gives us a platform from which to continue to watch and pressure ISIS,” he said.
The president had previously announced that all troops would leave Syria but has since acknowledged he’s considering keeping a few hundred in the area to protect the oil fields.
Trump’s announcement of the removal of the U.S. troops green-lighted a Turkish attack against the Kurds, who assisted the U.S. in fighting ISIS and helped guard areas where ISIS prisoners were held. Since the attack, there have been reports that several ISIS prisoners have escaped or have been released.
The Texas representative said on Sunday that he needs more information about the identities of the ISIS prisoners that were released or escaped during the Turkish offensive before agreeing with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that they present a danger.